Late turnover, Hopkins 4th field goal gives Chargers OT win
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Dustin Hopkins kicked four field goals, including a 39-yarder with 2:38 remaining in overtime, and the Los Angeles Chargers rallied for a 19-16 victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday night.
Hopkins, who injured a hamstring during the first half, grimaced as he kicked the ball and fell to the ground before being picked up by teammates. The ninth-year kicker was inactive for last week’s game against Cleveland due to a quadriceps injury.
Coach Brandon Staley said Hopkins’ hamstring kind of cramped up and strained on him early in the game, but started to loosen up during the second half.
“You can’t say enough about him hanging in there,” Staley said. “Early in the third quarter, we were going to be careful with him which is why we went for it. But at the end we had no choice. We were going to kick no matter what.”
Hopkins has five career games with four or more field goals.
“I was trying to focus on a little backswing and just get through the ball. And that was it,” Hopkins said of his first OT game-winner. “I wasn’t thinking about the circumstance or anything like that. I was just trying to repeat the swing thoughts in my head since it changed from pregame to the game.”
The Chargers have won three straight to improve to 4-2. They are tied with Kansas City atop the AFC West.
The game appeared to be headed toward a tie until Denver’s Montrell Washington muffed JK Scott’s punt at the Broncos 32-yard line. It was recovered by Deane Leonard at the 28.
Washington called for a fair catch, but Denver safety P.J. Locke didn’t hear Washington and tried to block Ja’Sir Taylor when Locke bumped into Washington.
Justin Herbert, who completed 37 of 57 for 238 yards and an interception, passed to Mike Williams for 9 yards to get Hopkins closer.
Russell Wilson was 15 of 28 for 188 yards and a touchdown for the Broncos (2-4), who dropped a game in overtime for the second straight week.
“This is very disappointing,” Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “We need to have a lot more urgency across the board. Starts with me as a coach, going to all the other coaches and on to the players. Players need to be, you know, just more urgent. We had some opportunities there, and we’ve got to execute at a higher level. We’ve got to come up with some better plays.”
Denver jumped out to a 10-0 lead with scores on the first two drives. Brandon McManus was good from 51 yards midway through the first, and Wilson found a wide-open Greg Dulcich for a 39-yard touchdown with 1:49 remaining in the quarter.
Wilson was able to elude pressure, step up in the pocket and loft a pass up the right sideline to the rookie tight end, who caught it at the LA 15 and went untouched into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown. Dulcich, a third-round pick from UCLA, was activated before the game after beginning the season on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury.
On the play before Dulcich’s score, Wilson avoided a sack attempt by Khalil Mack and Chris Rumph II, scrambled right and connected with Jerry Jeudy for a 37-yard completion.
The Dulcich TD was the Broncos’ first in 87 minutes, 54 seconds.
The Chargers answered on their ensuing possession, putting together a 15-play, 82-yard drive that was capped by Austin Ekeler’s 6-yard run up the middle with the Los Angeles linemen helping him get across the goal line. The Chargers converted all four of their third-down opportunities — including Ekeler’s TD — on the drive, which took 7:40 off the clock.
Following a Denver three-and-out, Los Angeles evened it at 10 on Hopkins’ 37-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining in the half.
The Broncos were not content to run out the clock though. KJ Hamler hauled in a 47-yard pass to the LA 28. Denver got to the Chargers 9 before McManus was good from 27 yards.
The Chargers tied it on their first drive of the third quarter when Hopkins split the uprights from 31 yards.
The teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter. McManus was good from 48 yards after Baron Browning picked off Herbert. The Chargers answered with Hopkins making it from 35.
Herbert had a 26-game TD pass streak snapped. It was the third-best run in franchise history and second-longest active streak in the league.
The teams combined for 19 penalties and a season-high 240 yards. The Broncos were flagged 10 times for 151 yards, the 24th time since 2000 a team has drawn more than 150 penalty yards, according to TruMedia.
The Broncos had four pass interference calls for 87 yards.
Ron Torbert’s crew had been conservative coming into the game. In their four previous contests this season, they averaged 12 flags for 92.8 yards.
DISTRIBUTING THE BALL
Wilson’s first nine completions were to nine different players. According to the NFL, he is the first player to complete his first nine attempts of a game to nine different receivers since at least 1991, when play-by-play data was first recorded.
Browning’s interception came after the ball was deflected off Chargers tight end Gerald Everett and a diving K’Waun Williams and into Browning’s hands at the LA 24. Joshua Palmer forced a fumble before the Broncos recovered it at the 30-yard line.
Chargers: RB Joshua Kelley suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return. C Will Clapp, who got the start after Corey Linsley was inactive due to illness, left the game in the fourth quarter but returned.
Broncos: Host the surprising New York Jets on Sunday.
Chargers: Host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
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